Over the summer of 2011, people picked five of 14 nominees for the first inductees in the Trivia Hall of FameTM. Here are the top five vote getters!
Just missing the cut was Robert Ripley. Also nominated were Kevin Ashman, Pat Gibson, Brad Rutter, Don Reid, John Carpenter, Fred L Worth, Ed Goodgold, Kevin Olmstead and Jim Oz Oliva.
Who do you want to nominate for the 2012 inductees to the Trivia Hall of FameTM?
In addition to winning 74 straight Jeopardy games, smashing just about every one of the show's records in the process, this former star of the Brigham Young University quiz bowl team is also the author of Brainiac (a social history of trivia), a "trivia almanac" and Maphead. Read our interview with Jennings.
Trebek brought quiz shows back to prime time as the host of the 1980s revival of Jeopardy. He has, however, hosted many game shows in his career, and in 1966 hosted Reach for the Top, a Canadian quiz show for high schoolers. More recently, he has hosted the National Geographic World Championship.
Trivia was pretty much dead in the early 1980s, when an improbably successful board game was created by two Canadians. Haney and Abbott created Trivial Pursuit and, despite the huge production costs, turned the game into a massive hit. Formerly in the Montreal newspaper business, the pair became millionaires.
Pearson and Hattikudur were at Duke when they created what is now Mental Floss magazine as a campus publication. Despite a bleak environment for magazine startups, Pearson and Hattikudur turned Mental Floss into a monster hit that spun off a series of books and board games. Read our interview with them.
In 1955, a debate about Europe's fastest game bird led the twin brothers Norris and Ross McWhirter to create the Guinness Book of Records, which became the world's biggest selling non-copyrighted book. Later in life, the pair became involved in arch-conservative causes and Ross McWhirter was killed by the IRA.
Future Jeopardy writer Steve Temerius founded the United States Trivia Association in 1979 as a way to bring together the various bits of the emerging trivia community. To that end, it published a fanzine called Trivia Unlimited until 1983. We also discovered that one of the things the USTA did was create a "trivia hall of fame" in Lincoln, Nebraska. As a tip of the hat to him, we are inducting the first people he and his partners picked.
A former semipro baseball player and New York State handball champ, Robert Ripley's Believe It Or Not column featured a few odd facts, along with illustrations by Ripley. One of the 1929 columns ("Believe It or Not, America has no national anthem") created such an uproar that by 1931, Congress had made The Star Spangled Banner official. The columns became the backbone of an empire that included books, a radio show, short films, a TV show, games and museums.
Fleming was a minor actor best known for his works in commercials, in particular for intoning the grammatically incorrect and medically dangerous assertion that "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should." Merv Griffin spotted him in an airline ad, and invited him to audition for Jeopardy. He was the host throughout both of its original runs, from 1964-75 and again in the 1978-79 season.
Attendees at the Trivia Championships of North America elected one person from a list of five.
His Super Trivia Encyclopedia almost single-handedly resurrected the trivia world in the 1970s and a major influence on Trivial Pursuit, so much so that Worth sued the game's creators. He was elected at TCONA 3 and Ed Toutant's speech nominating him quickly became the stuff of legend. Read our interview with Worth.
A combination of votes online and at the Trivia Championships of North America selected the inductees. Also nominated were Gordon "Uncle John" Javna, Quiz Bowl founder Don Reid, and WWTBAM host Regis Philbin.
As far as we can tell, Brad Rutter is the only person alive who has never lost a Jeopardy game (counting multi-day matches as one game). At least not to a human being. He has even made a habit of regularly defeating Ken Jennings. Having won $4.5 million on Jeopardy, he is also the biggest money winner in US game show history. Even so, he lost a chance to star in a US version of The Chase, a UK quiz show, because by all accounts he was just too darn nice.Read our interview with Brad Rutter. Watch his induction speech.
In 1975, David Wallechinsky and his father Irving Wallace produced the first People's Almanac, a reference work meant to be read for fun, one that challenged received orthodoxy wherever it could. The volume was so successful that it produced two sequels, and since the most popular chapter in the book was the one full of lists, it also spawned The Book of Lists, which also produced a string of sequels. For this series, they were joined by Amy Wallace, David's sister and Irving's daughter. Read our intervew with Wallechinsky and watch his induction speech
Also on the ballot this year were Arthur Chu, Gordon Javna and Allen Ludden. Ludden placed a close third.
With his daring play, Roger quickly became a legend among Jeopardy circles, both for his unpredictable moves around the board and for his aggressive game-changing bets. He broke Ken Jenning's all-time record for single-day winnings and in 2014, he fought his way into the finals of the Battle of the Decades, along with Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings. Read our interview with Roger Craig.
The International Quizzing Association was founded by quizzers from several countries: England's Jane Allen and Chris Jones, Belgium's Steven de Ceuster, Estonia's Arko Olesk and India's Anurakshat Gupta, who along with others expanded the IQA, and its annual World Quizzing Championships, to the US and around the world (l to r: Paul Bailey, de Ceuster, Gupta, Allen, Jones, Olesk)
Also on the ballot this year were Allen Ludden, who again placed a close third, Cecil Adams and Kevin Olmstead.
Software engineer Shayne Bushfield created Learned League, almost as a lark for some of his Seattle area friends. Instead it exploded, attracting thousands of people including trivia royalty and actual celebrities. What began as a hobby became a full-time career, bringing together on the same battlefield pretty much every serious trivia gunslinger in North America and, increasingly, around the world.
In 2014, Julia Collins amassed Jeopardy's second-longest winning streak, with 20 straight wins. Altogether, she won $479,100, placing fifth overall, as of 2016. Along with Arthur Chu's run earlier that year, her run also produced important conversations about race, gender, social media and the trivia world.
Also on the ballot this year were Siddhartha Basu (who placed third), Michael Davies, Mark Labbett and Stanley Newman.
Cindy Stowell won six Jeopardy games and $105,803, despite considerable pain and discomfort due to terminal illness. She died eight days before her first game aired, but donated her winnings to various cancer charities. She did, however, see an advance DVD copy of her first three wins.
Allen Ludden hosted GE College Bowl and a number of other quiz and game shows, notably various incarnations of Password. GE College Bowl was revived in the 1970s as a non-televised campus activity and has since become a training ground for many of America’s best trivia players.
Also on the ballot this year were Regis Philbin, Siddhartha Basu and Mark Labbett.
Griffin is best known as a media mogul and a talk show host. But he also changed the trivia world. In the early 1960s, he had hosted a few game shows, a format still reeling from the quiz show scandals of the 1950s. In 1964, while on a flight back from Duluth, he and his wife were batting around ideas for game shows. She came up with the concept of a show where you get the answers and provide the questions. This became Jeopardy, which in the decades since has become the ultimate summit on which trivia players prove themselves. He even wrote the show's memorable theme music.
In 1966, quiz bowl was a televised event, sponsored by General Electric. At the time, Princeton's all-male team were practically the New York Yankees of trivia. Their game against tiny Agnes Scott College was expected to be an easy match on the way to a lengthy winning streak. But in one of the greatest upsets in trivia history, the four women from ASC simply refused to lose. They were ahead at the half, and even though Princeton staged a tenacious comeback, ASC won on the very last question, at the buzzer. Fifty years later, the game appeared on YouTube, leading to a Slate article that also addressed the misogyny in the trivia world, both then and now.
Paquet's career as a trivia writer has brought him to just about every corner of the quizzing world: he has had a nationally syndicated trivia column and another in Reader's Digest; he's written for Trivial Pursuit, Uncle John's Bathroom Reader, the World Quizzing Championship, Fox's Spin the Wheel, Instant Cash, WWTBAM tie-ins, an online version of 1 vs 100 and many more. He provided about a third of the questions QuizUp launched with and landed a freelance job with HQ when he was one of the early big winners. (As the founder of the Trivia Hall of Fame (R), he was recused from the process that nominated and inducted him.)
It was one of the most famous moments on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. To boost ratings, the US version of the show tried increasing the pot every day that the top prize was not run. Eventually, Kevin Olmstead won more than $2 million. But in the interim, Toutant came and went, eliminated on what turned out to be such a badly written question that Toutant's answer was actually the more accurate one. He was not only invited back, but allowed to play for the amount of money on the table the day he played. And, sure enough, he went all the way and won $1.7 million. A Jeopardy champion as well, Toutant also became a fixture at both TCONA and EQC.
Also on the ballot this year were Mike Mailway and Geeks Who Drink founders John Dicker and Joel Peach.
Regis Philbin had already had a long TV career when he lobbied ABC to bring the UK show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire to the US. Because of Philbin's charm, the show became a massive hit and trivia became water-cooler conversation. Contestants became mini-celebrities. Philbin's appeal was such that his monochromatic style choices even became a fashion trend. Although WWTBAM is no longer on every weeknight, it continues in afternoon syndication.
In 2014, Jonathan Oakes established the Trivial Warfare podcast with friend and archrival Chris Hollister. Carmela Smith and Ben Young began to appear in later episodes. Now, some 200 episodes later, Trivial Warfare is not only one of the longest standing trivia podcasts, but it has developed a social media community on Facebook that allows fans to interact with each other and with the stars of the show.
Widely considered one of the world's greatest quizzers, if not its very best quizzer, Ashman has dominated the British trivia scene. In addition to topping the World Quizzing Championship regularly, he has been a fixture on the UK quiz show circuit. He's been an Egghead since 2003, had a record-setting run on Mastermind, won all-star versions of Brain of Britain and Fifteen to One, and has also written for quiz shows. And these are just the highlights.
As the Governess, Anne Hegerty has become one of the most feared of the opponents on The Chase. She is so popular she also appears in the Australian version of the show. Known for appearing at events where quizzing fans congregate, Hegerty also made some headlines when she appeared on a UK reality show called I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. She was candid about being on the autism spectrum, opening a fresh dialogue.
Also on the ballot this year were Sharon Burns and Tom Porter; Siddhartha Basu; and Pat Gibson.
After Holzhauer appeared on the US version of The Chase in 2014, Mark "the Beast" Labett called him the best player who had ever appeared on The Chase, anywhere in the world. On Jeopardy, he "lawn-mowed" the lower rows, then bet aggressively on Daily Doubles. He not only broke Roger Craig's one-day record, but did so 16 times. He beat Frank Spangenberg's 29-year-old record for a five-day total, and reached the $1 million and $2 million marks in record time.
Buzztime (then called NTN) jumped into the trivia business in 1987 with what are still its signature games, Showdown and Countdown. The top team is the Fellowship, from northeast Ohio. Since they were founded in 2004, they're been shattering records in the marquee events, routinely becoming each year's top Showdown team. Kern, Levin and Runta are the last of the original team, but the Fellowship's success has drawn from dozens of players over the years, all of whom share this honor.
Stevens Point, Wisconsin, may be tiny, but WWSP90-FM's annual 54-hour marathon radio trivia contest is the most famous of its kind. Founded by Tim Donovan and Nick Ryan in 1969, it grew to some 12,000 people after Oliva took over in 1979, becoming the world's largest trivia event. Many of the players come back year after year, bonding as a community. There is even a parade. And a movie. Oliva announced he was passing the torch to David Coulthurst in 2021.
Perry has been the top-ranked American in IQA's international ranking and was a member of Team USA at the Quiz Olympiad. He also won the million dollar prize from Goldpocket, an internet game show in 2000, and around the same time won $500,000 on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. His inducted by acclamation in 2020, however, represented the heroic service of medical staff around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, and his ER work in Pittsburgh in particular.